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date: 29 October 2020

On the Paradox of State Religion and Religious Freedomlocked

  • Zachary ElkinsZachary ElkinsDepartment of Government, The University of Texas at Austin


This essay explores the well-known tension between the commitment to a state religion and expressions of tolerance for other religions. The background question concerns the consequences of state religion, the more suspect of the two commitments, at least with respect to intergroup relations. A useful conception of state religion is as a central part of an identity regime, which can take several forms in national constitutions. It seems likely that state religion—and other exclusive elements of identity regimes—threaten the national attachment of ethnic minorities in ways that unwind many of the benefits of tolerance provisions. A simple typology helps to understand the variation in these provisions across jurisdictions and over time, and original historical cross-national data on national constitutions describes this variation in some detail. The evidence suggests that the world’s constitutions are moving in strikingly divergent directions with respect to their provisions on religion.


  • Comparative Politics

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